To describe the practice of otology in America during the first quarter century of the American Otological Society (AOS).Methods:
Two sources were used to determine the most prevalent disease conditions cared for and surgical procedures undertaken during this era. All articles published in the AOS transactions between 1868 and 1893 were studied as were the otology textbooks published by 6 of the first 10 Presidents of the Society.Results:
The primary emphasis of late 19th century American otological scholarship was on chronic ear infection with numerous articles focusing on complications of otitis including frequent descriptions of fatalities. Much emphasis was placed upon the Eustachian tube with catheterization and insufflation a major part of otological practice. Due to limitations in technology, the overwhelming focus was on diseases of the ear canal and middle ear. Understanding of temporal bone anatomy was much superior to that of physiology. Erroneous speculations on the function of the middle and inner ear were common. Surgical interventions were largely limited to myringotomy and mastoidectomy, the latter of which was sometimes life saving during the preantibiotic era.Conclusion:
The latter half of the 19th century saw the emergence of otology as a specialty in America and many emerging diagnostic and therapeutic advances were adopted. While capabilities were notably limited during this era, the efforts of a small band of pioneer otologists in the founder generation of the AOS contributed greatly to the progress of the emerging specialty.